Strike avoided: AAUP, administration reach agreement

By Shaun Chornobroff

After months of rigid negotiating that carried into the school year and led faculty to picket during move-in days, Rider’s faculty union and the administration agreed on a tentative contract on Sunday, Sept. 11, avoiding a strike and allowing the university to resume normal operations pending the deal’s completion.

The finalization of the five-year deal relies on ratification from Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the university’s board of trustees.

“Representatives from the Administration and the AAUP met throughout the summer to negotiate the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. Those negotiations culminated in a mutual agreement on [Sept. 11], in which the parties agreed on a broad range of changes,” said Rider’s Associate Vice President of Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown.

The sides met at 1 p.m. on Sept. 11, and by 4:30 that afternoon, the university sent out an announcement that an agreement had been reached.

“I think what helped us get an agreement is the support of our membership, the actions that we’ve done and also the support we got from the American Federation of Teachers national and a New Jersey [level],” AAUP President David Dewberry said in a phone interview with The Rider News after negotiations ended. “It certainly helped demonstrate that we have the resources and resolve to do what we need to do to get a fair deal.”

Both the union and the administration declined to give specifics of the deal at this time, with multiple AAUP leaders stating they want to present the terms to members before revealing them to The Rider News.

Prior to forging a deal the administration and the union had to agree upon multiple temporary extensions, and in that time union members wore cranberry AAUP T-shirts as a form of protest at the fall convocation on Sept. 1, and participated in informational picketing on Sept. 4 and 5 while students were moving into their dorms.

At its Sept. 8 meeting, which occurred the day before negotiations resumed, Dewberry estimated more than 200 people attended the meeting which he said is by far the largest union meeting during his tenure at the school.

“They sent a message to the negotiating team that they were ready to take any and all actions including a strike to get a fair contract,” Dewberry said. “I think that message was heard by me, the negotiating team and I have no doubt that it reached the administration on that end, and I think that’s part of the reason we saw a shift in their approach through the negotiations.”

Despite striking a deal, Rider’s recent financial woes still give Dewberry cause for concern.

“It’s nice to have a contract, but if the finances are as bad as the administration has portrayed them, we still have room to be concerned for the future of Rider and we hope we get good leadership that can foster that and work towards that,” the union president said.

As Rider recovers economically from long-standing financial insecurity that was only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and ushers into what it hopes is an era of financial stability, the administration hopes this deal can improve what has been a struggling relationship between Dell’Omo and university faculty.

Brown said, “While, by its nature, the collective bargaining process can invoke a certain level of anxiety as deadlines approach, the fact is that the parties have a long history of working collaboratively at the table to reach mutually acceptable solutions to what are frequently complex matters.”

Brown said the administration offered to establish labor management meetings with union representatives with the intent “of proactively focusing on continuing to build upon the relationship between the parties. We are hopeful that the offer will be accepted.”

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